tv The Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC September 22, 2014 9:00pm-10:01pm PDT
how does china move? how does bashar al assad try to survive it? >> steve clemmons with "the atlantic." thank you, steve. that is "all in" for this evening. the rachel maddow show starts now. >> at 8:30 p.m., the u.s. military says they started bombing inside syria. it is awkward to say that the u.s. is bombing inside syria instead of just saying they are bombing syria. but that awkward phrasing is because this bombing campaign tonight is not against the syrian government. or the syrian military. it's against a group that in fact is fighting the syrian government. a group that controls huge swaths of both syria and iraq. u.s. bomber and fighter jets and drones have been bombing inside iraq since august 8th. the iraqi government welcomed and in fact begged for those air strikes to help iraqi security forces fight against isis in
that country. but over the border in syria it's a different story. the government in syria does not welcome and is certainly not asking for u.s. air strikes inside their country. syria has said it would see any air strikes by anyone on its territory as an act of aggression. but those air strikes have in fact, started tonight. the u.s. military announcing these aircraft, f-22s, f-16s, fa-18s and b1 bombers are taking part in the official bombing attack on syria tonight or inside syria tonight. i should maengs this may be the first time that f-22 raptors are being used in this kind of a combat mission. that may be significant as a matter of military history and capability. but all those aircraft reportedly used in the initial attack which started at 8:30 p.m. eastern with a target list of about 20 sites. about 20 isis targets in and
around raqqa which is in eastern syria. the pentagon describing these as isis command and control facilities, headquarters facilities, logistics sites, fuel depots, weapons depots, training sites and troop encampments. following those attacks from manned aircraft, the pentagon said the first wave of bombings from manned aircraft would be followed by further bombing by drones and also by missile strikes from tomahawk missiles fired from u.s. navy ships nearby. these air strikes are not being done in conjunction with any on the ground troops in syria. in iraq, the u.s. military has said they are hoping iraqi forces would be able to capitalize on the ground following those u.s. bombs from above. it's not like that in syria. there are no plans for that in syria. no western ground troops in syria, certainly. there's no friendly government ground troops in syria. there's a raging multisided
civil war in syria. so somebody will capitalize on these u.s. air strikes against isis targets but we doin't know who will capitalize anthem and can't control who will capitalize anthem. here's a few things to consider. will it work? is this new air war likely to succeed at its objectives? to that end, look at this. from the front page of "the new york times" earlier tonight. can we drop the breaking news bug for a second so we can see the screen? the bottom story was their lead all day at "the new york times." air strikes fail to dislodge isis in iraq. that was first. then they had to run the new big headline. u.s. and allies strike isis targets in syria. so one and then the other. this is a rorschach test. one way to see this sequence is, well, it didn't work in iraq so why are we doing more of this thing that didn't work? the other way to see it is, yes,
of course, it wouldn't work just to target isis in iraq without hitting them in syria. you'd never get anywhere. now that you're hitting in syria, now they'll start to work everywhere. so what kind of person are you? glass half full? glass half empty? worried about this more than you're excited about it? question one, can isis be hurt or beaten this way? open question. also, question two, who is involved in this? initial statement from the pentagon said the u.s. undertook military action along with partner nation forces. nbc news has been told tonight that the nations involved operationally in tonight's actions include saudi arabia, bahrain, united arab emirates, jordan and qatar. now if they are, in fact, operationally involved in these air strikes, that may be hugely important in terms of how the world sees this military action and reacts to these air strikes. that's an acute consideration at the outset any of war. what is particularly acute right
now is because there's something like 140 world lead eshs, including president obama, who are convening right now at the united nations in new york for the general assembly. when president obama speaks at the united nations over the next couple of days, he's going to be getting direct personal reaction from world leaders into what he's doing. who is involved with the u.s. in these strikes will make a very big difference in terms of how the world reacts. number one, will it work? number two, who is involved? and how will the world react? number three, is how will syria react? because the syrian government has substantial air defense system. a very substantial air defense system. they have their own considerable air force as well. when syria said they would see air strikes by us or anybody else as an act of aggression against them as a nation, did they mean that they would shoot at our planes? is this now a war with syria in addition to being a war inside
syria? and beyond those questions, i've got two more. because the u.s. telegraphed in advance this attack would be coming, has isis integrated itself into civilian areas so attacks on them will also harm syrian civilians? how isolatable are they, and did that problem get worse over the last two weeks after the u.s. directly telegraphed we'd be doing this but before we started it? while i'm on a, roll, here's more. is this legal? the administration says its basis for waging this new air war against isis is the authorization for using military force. that the u.s. congress pass inside the immediate aftermath of 9/11. that authorization for the use of military force, authorized force against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, which were 13 years ago, long before isis or anything like isis was a twinkling in any terrorist's eye. in terms of this fight against
isis, the u.s. congress has not authorized anything in syria, let alone in iraq. is it legal for the u.s. military to be doing this right now? is it legal for the president to have ordered this? and is congress really going to sit an its hands and stay on vacation for the next two months now that the u.s. started a new air war in the middle east? we'll speak with a member of congress about that last point in a moment. first let's bring in ayman mohyeldin. thanks for staying up until the dead of night with us and being here. i really appreciate it. >> thank you, rachel. >> as the u.s. targets what they say are 20 isis targets in and around raqqa, is it fair to ask how much isis is actually headquartered in raqqa in this area in syria where the u.s. is launching strikes tonight? are they the kind of group you could cut the group off at headquarters and it would make an important difference across the region? >> well, the short answer to that is, as you mentioned, the air strikes in iraq have not yet
dislodged isis completely. there's no doubt that there have been over the course of the last several months a solidification of isis' positions inside raqqa that's been the operational headquarter. certainly an area they've firmly in their control and have been able to use to coordinate attacks, to store weapons, to build up their ammunition supplies and deploy them. and in some cases even train fighters. it's also believed to be an ideological centerpoint for the group to draw recruits and then spread those out across the regions they are trying to fight. it's important that symbolically, raqqa has been struck. i think it's going to be not so clear in the coming days whether or not it's going to degrade isis just with at least one day of strikes as we've seen tonight, rachel? >> what do we know about the level of involvement from these other arab nations? the saudis, bahrain, jordan, qatar? do we know how much they are involved and is that the sort of
thing we will hear from them officially or will this always be covert from their perspective? >> both. i've spoken to some arab leaders this evening. some arab diplomats. and they have spoken to me privately saying that some will make comments following president obama's speech. they want president obama to come out first and set the tone for this international engagement if you will. they'll come out and speak about it. they may not necessarily address the operational involvement but they'll certainly lend their diplomatic support to the united states and to the operation. there's no doubt arab countries in the region are going to spin this into their favor. every country that is supporting this fight against isis will use this in some ways as justification for something it is doing domestically. consider the case in egypt where president sisi has been cracking down on dissent. also waging a war against terrorists inside the northern part of the sinai peninsula. he's been saying if the u.s. goes to war against isis inside
syria it should not stop there. this should also be an example for what he's trying to do in neighboring libya and in his own territory. so i think you can see countries try to spin this politically and diplomatical for their own consideration. but you'll also get some idea of what involvement they may be playing. there's no doubt the u.s. is the lead military force an this but there are indications that countries like jordan are providing intelligence on the ground that other countries like bahrain which is home to the naval fleet is providing key logistical support for some of the operations. and other countries perhaps like egypt providing the water ways, including the red sea. access to the red sea for u.s. naval ships to fire some of those missiles into syria. >> what should we think about -- or what should we expect in terms of the syrian government response? obviously, ahead of this, they said you cannot do this without us. you must work through this if you want to fight these groups. we've been fighting them all this time. the only legitimate force is the syrian government.
u.s. officials are telling reporters that syria was not given advance notice these strikes were going to happen. we're also hearing through pentagon correspondent jim miklaszewski that u.s. military officials aren't that concerned about syrian air defenses. not that they aren't considerable but that syria wouldn't dare shoot at u.s. planes who are engaged in sorties this way. what should we expect from the syrian government in response? >> that is certainly going to depend on what happens in terms of the u.s.' intensivecation of strikes on the isis targets. if the united states really degrades isis over the course of days or weeks and really allows for syrian rebels to regroup to once again have a front line against the assad regime you can bet the regime is going to launch back ferociously. they aren't going to object to u.s. air strikes against isis. the syria conflict is a very
complex one. right now u.s. and syrian interests have aligned, albeit very briefly in this fight against isis. no doubt if the syrian government feels that it is once again being threatened by these air strikes, i suspect the united states will have a hard time perhaps not necessarily militarily with trying to penetrate syrian air defenses but you'll see the syrian government find other ways to lash out against perhaps interests -- u.s. interests in the region. not necessarily militarily but diplomatically and in other ways against syrian rebels that the u.s. is trying to prop up inside that country. to hold the territory that it wins over for by degrading isis. >> watching to see ground forces of any stripe try to capitalize on u.s. air power is going to be both chaotic and fascinating in terms of seeing the power ambulance in the region. nbc news foreign correspondent ayman mohyeldin. it's after 5:00 in the morning in london where you are.
i appreciate you doing this. >> my pleasure. >> let's bring in congressman adam smith of washington. the ranking democrat on the house armed services committee. thank you for staying up to the wee hours to talk with us. >> thanks for the chance, rachel. >> let me get your overall reaction to this news the u.s. has begun bombing isis targets in syria. i know you said you supported the president's efforts to arm and train rebel forces in syria. do you support these air strikes as well? >> i think the biggest thing about this is the coalition that has been brought together to have saudi arabia and bahrain and jordan, qatar and uae as part of this is absolutely critical. if this is a u.s. -- dominated u.s. alone effort, it won't be successful. that's an important step. the next most important step is we have to get the sunnis in iraq and then some in syria hopefully with the training mission as part of it to join in this fight. we still have a long way to go
in that regard. getting the sunnis on the ground to be willing to oppose isis. the air strikes the coalition has put together. but there's a long way to go. >> after the amount of time the united states spent in iraq, in particular trying to build an inclusive and effective iraqi army, working an iraqi security forces at every level trying to do things like build iraq an air force and all the other things we did and all the tens of billions if not hundreds of billions of dollars the u.s. spent trying to built capacity in iraq, is there anything left undone that we haven't already tried in terms of trying to get iraqi toss do something that we see in their interest that they plainly don't see that way? what else could the u.s. do in iraq to change saunni tribesmens minds? >> that's an excellent point and
good cause for skepticism. look, if you didn't have a threat like isis popping up here that's so clearly a threat to the region. it's a threat not just in syria and iraq but to jordan, surrounding countries. they wish to export terrorist attacks. you can make a strong argument there's really nothing much we can do. but isis is the changing factor. and the only hope we can have is that that threat, the vision in iraq of isis rolling through mosul down into tikrit, out to the outskirts of baghdad will force them to reconsider. really, it's just one issue. they have to be inclusive instead of sectarian. that's what maliki utterly failed to do. he continued to drive out the sunnis. we'll see if abadi does any better. there's not being enough to include them in the government.
the hope is that the very real terror threat of isis, you know, right outside of baghdad will hopefully focus their minds on the fact they just can't afford to be a corrupt sectarian government and survive. it's no guarantee, that's for sure. >> congressman adam smith, one last question. do you expect that congress may return to washington to try to vote on whether or not these strikes should continue to vote on authorizing this use of force? the u.s. military and the president just ordered the start of a new significant u.s. air war in the middle east. congress has not weighed in at all on this. and congress isn't due to be back in washington for another two months. do you expect congress may come back to address this? >> i think the pressure is building to do that. i've been working with steny hoyer about ways to pull together a working group. congress should speak an this issue. this is, without question, war. this is something that congress
should authorize. the president has his article 2 authority and can make his argument but congress is always complaining that the president is overtaking our power. here's an opportunity. so absolutely, congress should pass it. the politics, very difficult in getting that done for a wide variety of reasons. no question we should act. the pressure is building to overcome those political policy objections and actually do what the congress ought to do. >> congressman adam smith, thank you for your time tonight, sir. i really appreciate it. it's actually news to hear. from a member of congress in a position to know. congressman smith is the top democrat an the house armed services committee. if he's saying that pressure is building in congress, that they ought to say something here, a, i think that's news but, b, i think those political winds may
in fact, be shifting in washington. i'm not sure a congress can give itself 54 days off in a row and just walk away when a new air war starts and they haven't said anything about it. news breaking late tonight that u.s. air strikes have started in syria. less than two weeks after president obama announced he intended to attack isis fighters inside syria. administration sources telling reporters the government of syria was not given advance notice before those strikes but we've got much more ahead as news continues to break in syria. please stay with us. i got this. [thinking] is it that time? the son picks up the check? [thinking] i'm still working. he's retired. i hope he's saving. i hope he saved enough. who matters most to you says the most about you. at massmutual we're owned by our policyowners, and they matter most to us. whether you're just starting your 401(k) or you are ready for retirement,
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crisis, one thing that has been clear is isis wants war. isis has been taking territory and murdering people over vast swaths of iraq and syria. they say they want to control all the way from iraq to the mediterranean taking all or part not only of iraq and syria but lebanon and jordan and israel and turkey and, and, and. but then there's us. isis has not yet tried to launch a physical assault in the united states if they ever will. but they have declared them to be at war with the united states. isis propaganda over and over, like this propaganda video from last week. they cast their situation in the world as a war between isis and the u.s. they desperately want the world to see them as an equal and opposite force fighting the americans. the group has made baseically a art of trying to provoke and terrify specifically an american audience. today they taunted the u.s. in a new audio message released this
morning. it has not been verified independently by nbc, but the isis speaker basically begs the united states for a ground war. he says, quote, are america and all its allies from amongst the crusaders and the atheists inn able to come down to the ground? it's basically begging the u.s. for a ground war. what isis wants and what they use to recruit followers and funders and fighters from all offer the globe is the prospect of them fighting their own war with the united states. particularly one that can be fought on the ground. tonight america brought them an air war in syria instead. for more let's bring in laith from a security consulting firm that tracks militant website activity. are isis militants or their supporters reacting to this air campaign in syria tonight in a way that's vis nibble social media or an the web?
>> they are reacting on open social media and the dark web. there's been a rally around these platforms, let's call them, where they are encouraging really attacks an the united states. not only in the homeland but also western interests generally speaking around the region. they acknowledge that the united states has naval ships. they acknowledge the united states has financial institutions. it has a number of strategic interests in the region. and that goes back to attacking even what they call proxy regimes in the region, including the sing dkingdom of saudi arab jordan. they believe that the united states will be greatly harmed. >> they are calling for retaliatory strikes gans the u.s. or u.s.-associated resources around the world as a reaction to these air strikes? strike back because they struck us? so one of the things we've talked about in terms of overall u.s. strategy in terms of isis is how much they posit
themselves as an opposite force to the united states when trying to recruit, trying to get support. are they trying already to turn these air strikes tonight toward a recruiting effort? not just to cite attacks but get more support and more funding? >> they've anticipated these attacks a little over 24 hours ago. the spokesman of isis issued a 42-minute audio specifically declaring what kind of strategy he reached out to all kind of supporters. not only supporters of islamic state in the middle east but also across overseas in the united states in australia and europe to carry out attacks not only on military targets but also on civilian targets. they feel that civilians should be targeted just as much as military targets. for them it's an all-out war. >> in term of that call, before we knew about these air strikes, looking at that audiotape and what that call means, when i see
the content of that tape, i have two simultaneous feelings. one is, is this all you've got? literally if that's your strategy, let's tell everybody in the tworld attack anybody they can and we'll call that our victory. it seems like, really, weak sauce from a group that doesn't have much more operationally to offer. on the other hand, what they are asking is very doable. it's a very low level buy-in asking anyone to attack in any of the 50 countries supporting anyone in the u.s. it's a very doable thing. how do you see it in terms of competing impulses. >> we've talked about ideology. doesn't need that much recruitment where somebody can pledge allegiance to the islamic state. they don't have to ever have had membership or join them on the ground or have any operational training. on the other hand, it's an all-inclusive rallying cry. not only for isis supporters but
also for the normal muslims out there. they are trying to present this as a crusader war. trying to present themselves as a state. crusader state attacking and thus you should react. it's a dobl-edged sword. to add to that, he summed his 42-minute audio with a sentence. if you attack us, we just get more powerful. and if you just don't attack us, we justice grow. so his message -- >> also i'm under your bed right now. it's horror movie terror. there's nothing you can do and if you do anything it will make it worse. >> the threat emanates from them being violent and opportunistic. when you have opportunity and being violent, put that together and that's a deadly recipe. >> being scary enough to western states that wouldn't necessarily do anything to them.
laith, thanks. busy night. we'll be right back. a brand. your chance to rise and shine. with centurylink as your trusted technology partner, you can do just that. with our visionary cloud infrastructure, global broadband network and custom communications solutions, your business is more reliable - secure - agile. and with responsive, dedicated support, we help you shine every day of the week. centurylink your link to what's next.
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your lives are in our hands. in the past few hours, the united states has officially launched a new campaign of air strikes against isis militants inside syria. those with knowledge of the strikes say the u.s. allies involved in this include saudi arabia, the united arab emirates, bahrain, jordan and qat qatar. we understand all these countries are involved in these
air strikes and some sort of operational level. these countries have not publicly confirmed their participation but they are more or less expected to do so tomorrow. one thing to note about these strikes inside syria, from what we can tell so far, the u.s. does not appear to have european allies joining in this military operation tonight. france did start strikingu sis targets last week inside iraq, but those targets were not the targets in syria being hit tonight. the french government has explicitly said they wouldn't extend their bombing into syria. they only plan to act in iraq. the timing is also interesting. this news comes as the u.n. general assembly convenes in new york. 140 or so world leaders have gathered in new york. one of the things they'll be able to see while here is president obama making a case for expanded international cooperation against groups like isis, particularly in terms of foreign fighters traveling from
around the globe to fight with the group and then trying to come home after it's done. president obama will personally chair a committee on wednesday. we're joined by ann guerin from "the washington post." in terms of these five other countries said to be operationally involved in some way with what's going on tonight, obviously that has huge diplomatic consequences. >> it does. it's extraordinarily difficult, particularly for the persian gulf countries to be on the same side as the united states in this against a sunni opponent. these are all sunni nations. that said, they're not hiding it. they may not announce it pnlly b publicly but they'll let the u.s. whisper it on its behalf. >> the u.s. has just said partner nations. u.s. officials are letting it be known that it is these five nations. the -- presume only these
countries have given them the okay to do that. how much do they want to be known? how dangerous is it for themselves domestuccally in their own countries for it to be known they're participating? >> it's sort of uncomfortable, but not dangerous. and there's actually a domestic benefit which is that these are authoritarian nations that want to be seen as squashing. the insurgent forces that these groups represent or that certainly this particular group represents. this is a force that formed to topple a government like themselves. so they have an interest here. >> in terms of what happens tomorrow at the u.n., it is remarkable timing that we've got the president due to speak tomorrow at the u.n. on climate change, chairing the u.n. security council on wednesday. we've got 140 world leaders in new york. i can testify that new york is completely gridlocked because of
all the motorcades. >> it is no accident this is happening as president obama arrives. this is something that the united states has been telegraphing for weeks, and, oh, by the way it happens to happen the night before -- >> what's the advantage to the u.s. government? >> he walks in here and makes the entire week 100% about what are we going to do about this problem? the united states is already doing something about it. where are you? >> what does the united states want that it is not otherwise getting? obviously, having gulf states operationally involved, not just in helping out and sending money and intelligence but actually being involved in kinetic military activities. they wanted that. what else did they isn't. >> extra help from turkey. from iran. they want money and more importantly than any of those, they want diplomatic unity. they want a lot of support. they want a lot of people saying this is a great thing. you're doing the right thing and we'll support you.
as opposed to previous u.s. endeavors in the middle east, which -- where we had countries from a to z saying you're doing the wrong thing. >> in terms of turkey specifically, obviously, turkey is in a position that nobody else is in in terms of their border with syria. and how much they are affected by what's already happened, this huge refugee crisis that blossomed in a way over the weekend in a terrible way. what is the united states expecting from turkey on a realistic level? >> on a realistic level, they don't really think they'll get operational military use of the air base but they'd like to see a much greater effort along the border. they'd like to see turkey do some serious effort along the syrian border to stop the flow of foreign fighters and to stop the flow of oil coming over the border from ooh rack an the iraq side of the border which is
being sold in turkey. >> why wouldn't they close the border in terms of fighters? >> it's really hard to do. it's a porous border. it's really long. it's really difficult. on the other side, it's also wink, wink, nudge, nudge thing for turkey not to have to do. we've never really totally cleaned on them to 100% do it. now it's a bit of greater pressure being applied. >> anne gearan for "the washington post." appreciate it. we are finding out new details about tonight's air strikes in syria, including not just what the targets are but how the strikes are being carried out at a pretty specific level. we've got that just ahead. stay with us. on my journey across america,
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and see how one small change can lead to good things. some breaking news from the associated press in just the past few minutes. syria's foreign ministry is now saying that the united states let the syrian government know before launching air strikes against isis in syria tonight. we'd previously heard reporting to the contrary. u.s. administration officials
telling reporters tonight there had been no advance warning to the syrian regime. syria's foreign ministry sid the u.s. told syria's envoy to the u.n. before the air strikes started. an the one level that's just manners. on the other hand may have operational considerations. again, the syrian government and the syrian military have been very preoccupied with the civil war they've been waging and fighting in over the last few years. but syria has invested a lot in its military over the years. a lot of russian founded equipment, russian produced equipment, including considerable air defenses. when syria said they'd take any air strike on their territory as an act of aggression, it raised the prospect that the u.s. trying to wage war in syria against isis might inadvertently end up waging war in syria against syria if they decided to turn those air defenses against u.s. planes. they now say they knew in
advance before this happened. spencer, thanks for being here. >> so honored, rachel. >> let me ask you about the syrian government, air defenses. they've been making threatening accusations of don't come in here. we'll see that as an act of war. how threatened could u.s. pilots be by syria? >> it really depends if assad decides to use his air defense missiles. it's not around the area where this strike was around raqqa. assad will have his option of scrambling his jets. we'll know if this was uncontested air space or not. that should tell us about where future air strikes will have to face syrian defenses or not. >> in terms of the reaction from the syrian government, the other thing they have to consider is whether or not they can capitalize for their own civil war purposes on softening of any
targets the u.s. does as a favor. not exactly enemy of my enemy is my -- because we don't talk about it that way. >> far past that in this confluctuate. >> any sense of who may be able to capitalize in this? >> that's the single biggest question of this next phase of this latest u.s./middle eastern war. if you listen to the pentagon and their explanation for this, they're not going to have anyone at all they can rely an as a proxy ground force for at the earliest and most optistic estimate eight months. that's eight months after this training program if it begins tomorrow in saudi arabia actually yields credible units, capable units, units capable of communicating with one another, of orchestrating a campaign that makes sense and find something way of communicate with u.s. and middle eastern pilots above. >> almost impossible to imagine even if you take them an their own word. >> extremely logistically
complicated. then cedesing the idea they'll be able to capitalize against the force that's deeply entrenched, far more battle hardened. that's been able to make astonishing and to some degree historic gains in the middle east. and that's isis. against this force is an enormous question mark. >> in terms of what the u.s. has done already, we've seen this long list of the types of aircraft used and the tomahawk missiles. can you give us a sense how big an effort was launched tonight? we don't use the term shock and awe because that's a specific thing that's been misinterpreted in a lot of ways. how big should we see what happened tonight? >> this is considerable and when we'll start to see real pictures emerge in the hours after the battle, after the campaign. we don't really know it's a battle. we'll be able to know at that point really how enormous this is and the questions that will
immediately come out next. what are the follow ons. how long does this continue? u.s. officials have been talking tonight about something that looks like the air campaign in iraq in terms of its pace chicapaceing. multiple attacks daily. if they are looking at the pentagon and central command is that a template? that really does give a sense of the enormous amount of effort that's going to go into another open-ended campaign in the middle east. >> spencer ackerman for "the guardian." i have a feeling we'll be seeing a lot more of each other soon as this stuff unfolds. seems like this will nobt a short effort. more ahead on what the white house has said about extending air strikes into syria to fight isis. please stay with us. you know. i got this. [thinking] is it that time? the son picks up the check? [thinking] i'm still working. he's retired. i hope he's saving.
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with the top speed of comcast business internet... well, there's really no comparison. why pay more for less? call today for a low price on speeds up to 150mbps. and find out more about our two-year price guarantee. comcast business. built for business. last month i gave the order for our military to begin taking targeted action against isil. since then, american pilots have flown more than 170 air strikes against these terrorists in iraq. and france has now joined us in
these air strikes. going forward, we won't hesitate to take action against these terrorists in iraq or in syria. >> president obama during his radio address this past weekend. as of tonight, the united states has in fact, taken action against isis targets in syria. it's been 12 days since the president's primetime address to the nation on syria when he told the country he'd not hesitate to take military action against isis in syria as well as in iraq. the president said that night, quote if you threaten america, you will find no safe haven. the united states has conducted a total of 190 air strikes inside iraq against isis so far. that's not a surprise that the u.s. has also now launched an air war against syria. we didn't know it happened now but knew it was coming. after 190 air strikes against isis in iraq, with iraqi ground forces there able to capitalize on what the united states military is delivering from the
air. after 190 strikes against isis in iraq already, still today the iraqi government is announcing that they are losing at least one more town to isis inside iraq. if isis is still able to expand the territory it controls in iraq even in the face of that from the u.s., what are we getting ourselves into and for how long in syria? joining us is steve clemmons, washington editor at large for "the atlantic." thanks for being here. >> my pleasure. >> is it fair to ask that question that the iraqi strikes have been going an for a long time. they were invited by the iraqi government. the iraqi security forces are trying to capitalize anthem. it's not like isis has been rolled back in iraq. is that a comparison for what's about to happen in syria? oh, i've lost steve. this makes it sound like a rhetorical question. are we going to be able to get him back?
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global broadband network and custom communications solutions, your business is more reliable - secure - agile. and with responsive, dedicated support, we help you shine every day of the week. centurylink your link to what's next. waking back. we are now officially at war inside syria, even though we sometimes don't call it a war. at 8:30 p.m. eastern time, the united states military did start bombing raids inside syria. it does represent a major escalation in the u.s. war against the sunni militant group isis. this video was posted online by a group called step agency news. it per ports to show the beginning of the u.s. bombing mission from an the ground in syria. nbc news hasn't independently verified this video but the pentagon has confirmed u.s. manned and unmanned aircraft
have begun targeting sites in and around raqqa that include isis command and control, isis headquarters and logistic sides, fuel depots and weapons depots, training sites and troop encampments. that's just what the pentagon says it is targeting in syria. we don't know if that's actually what's there for them to hit or if indeed they are hitting targets like that tonight and into the morning. joining us is steve clemons for "the atlantic." do we have you? >> yes, you do. >> i'm sorry about that earlier issue. >> no worries. >> 190 air strikes in iraq already. the iraqi government announced today after all that that isis took another town in iraq. it doesn't seem like u.s. air strikes in iraq have been able to meaningfully turn the tide against isis. is there reason to believe it would be different in syria? >> this is a real test of isis' resilience against the attack.
we've had a lot of reports that many commanders came out of saddam hussein's military. and when saddam was being attacked, that military dissolved into the ferment, into the population inside iraq and disappeared. that's one of the techniques that some of the units inside, broadly in the middle east and north africa region have used. we'll need to see if somehow we got remarkably lucky and hit command and control density of isis and were able to make a dent in how that operation runs fully or whether or not it has the capacity to pop up elsewhere. so i think it's an impressive show of force but there's also a day after. there's always some degree of blowback and we're going to have to see as you and i have talked about whether this is something that drags us deeper than just power from the air. >> what's would deeper really look like in syria? i feel like i know what it would
look like in iraq, in part because we've seen that movie before. if the united states or the united states and its allies wanted to go from air strikes and missile strikes tonight into something either broader or deeper, what else would come next? >> well, you've got -- a lot of speculation but you've got all sorts of possible horror stories. you had one of the largest displacement of refugees inside syria up to the turkish border. kurds are evacuating like crazy. more than 200,000. what if you had just mass casualties in that. what if you had the beginning of kidnapping, not only of the americans being held but americans elsewhere. about 1600 troops of u.s. troops inside iraq now, you could imagine they fall into some sort of jeopardy and then find themselves in the hands where you have these televised shock and awe horror stories.
after air strikes is it clear they have a next thing in mind that they might be able to do operationally? >> well, it's not clear. the president of the united states has said over and over and over again that absolutely no troops an the ground even if we have troops technically inside iraq. at the end of the day, there are limited things that one can do from the air. the president seems to have set that and said we're going to keep bombing. we're going to keep erhododing degrading isis over time. nearly every other major commander from the former central commander, general maddis and others have said that's not a winning strategy. we'll have a tension inside washington, d.c., about how this war is conducted. and like afghanistan, you'll see that war litigated an the pages of "the new york times" and "washington post" and "wall street journal" despite what's going on over in syria on the
ground. so i worry that in these other episodes, the political posturing of different institutions and people can make a white house move. and i think that's a problem for us to consider. >> steve clemmons, washington editor in large. thanks for being with us. i appreciate it. >> sdhat it for us now. msnbc's coverage continues with lawrence o'donnell. thanks for being with us tonight. it is 5:00 a.m. in syria at this hour. and about an hour and a half ago as rachel just reported, the united states began bombing syria. the eastern part of syria in its ongoing action against the islamic state in that region. rear admiral john kirby, the pentagon press secretary issued a written statement confirming, quote, u.s. military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against isil terrorists in jair using